You Can Say Cracker
Two prominent Twitch streamers were banned for saying "cracker." This is absurd.
As someone who streams regularly on Twitch as my VTuber persona BB the Flying Fox, the goings on of its moderation is of considerable concern to me. Recently, bans were given out to two large streamers, VaushVidya and HasanAbi, both for using the word “cracker” as a slur against white people. Vaush himself is white. Stopping hate speech on these platforms is important, but these supposed anti-white “slurs” simply do not carry the weight of slurs like the n-word.
What gives a slur power is not the word itself but the cultural and historical connotations that it carries. Slurs against marginalized groups are a tool of enforcement of their oppression. The n-word was used to tear down Black people historically through centuries of subjugation in a way something like “cracker” simply cannot.
This fits along within the template of “punching up” vs. “punching down” in comedy — it is far better to direct attacks at those with power than those without, and though, as individuals, many white people are obviously struggling, as a collective group, white people are not disempowered in the way other races are.
None of this is to say that there is anything wrong or shameful about being white — I’m white myself! — but rather that, from the perspective of race, we, as a group, are the ones that hold the most power in society. Terms like “white privilege” do not mean that you necessarily have a privileged existence materially, but that, all else being equal, someone not white would be worse off in your shoes.
Rather than unnecessarily stigmatize new words, it is far better to recognize that mocking terms for white people are fairly harmless jokes and should be treated as such. Validating the notion that “cracker” is harmfully racist just fuels white grievance politics that drive much of the alt-right’s antics. “It’s just a joke” is an excuse that rarely works when punching down but usually works when punching up.
This does prompt greater concerns about Twitch as a platform, which will surely cater to the whims of Amazon’s executive team. Decentralized streaming is much harder than other applications of decentralized technology and impedes discovery and revenue generation, but perhaps these sorts of decisions will see streamers increasingly find ways to stream without Big Tech.
This will go both ways, of course, and enable the bigoted, reactionary types as well, leading to those who seek to harm others to adopt tools that free them from oversight. One strong pull with Twitch will always be its tight coupling with Amazon Prime benefits, allowing a free subscription to a streamer and awarding of in-game loot.
Streaming is clearly here to stay, with technologies like VTubing making it more interesting, creative, and dynamic than ever. What needs to go is fragility over fake “slurs” that no one has just cause to find offensive — and for platforms like Twitch to take actual hate speech seriously.